Meryl Streep makes great films that don’t make much money

Meryl Streep is the Queen of Hollywood. Any questions?

Granted, this is not news. As far as I’m concerned, Streep has been the queen of, well, the world ever since I saw her in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979).

Although I’m sure part of her appeal, at least subconsciously, was that her character had left her husband for a woman, the fact is that I have never been able to take my eyes off of Meryl Streep, regardless of where I see her.

As the cover story in this week’s Entertainment Weekly notes, however, although her movies have received consistent critical raves — and earned Streep the most Academy Award nominations of any actor — they haven’t made a lot of money. At least not until 2006, when she played Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, which grossed more than $300 million worldwide.

This year, Streep sang and danced through Mamma Mia!, which became the highest-grossing Hollywood film musical of all time — almost $600 million so far.

Now, at age 59, Streep is finally considered a “bankable” star. Not that she’s surprised.

“I’m not amazed,” she says. “It’s like Obama. For the two days after he was elected, people were going around to every black person they knew saying, ‘Aren’t you amazed?’ Why should people be amazed when the most qualified person is elected? I’ve worked hard, so this is what I expect. It doesn’t normally happen, but it should.”

That’s typical Meryl, isn’t it? She has never shied away from saying what she thinks, especially when it comes to the lack of challenging roles for women over 40. In 1990, speaking to the Screen Actors Guild, she described the male power base in Hollywood as “stupid, greedy people” and sarcastically said that if trends continued, women would be eliminated from movies by 2010. The only way to get away with saying things like that to the people who hire you is by being brilliant at what you do. And she is.

Yet she still doesn’t make the kind of money her male contemporaries do. “I’ve never made the equivalent to what men make,” she says. “I think Jack [Nicholson] made more on About Schmidt that I made on Mamma Mia!” She has learned, however, to make sure she gets a share of a film’s profits. “Don’t worry about me,” she told EW as she slapped her butt. “I have a huge back end.”


Streep’s next movie is Doubt, which opens Dec. 12. As Sister Aloysius, Streep does not wear age-defying make-up. In fact, the severe bonnet she wears accentuates the lines in her face, making her look older than she actually is.

To me, however, the intensity of her performance brings beauty to the character. And, if the trailer is any indication, another Academy Award may be on its way.


Meryl hopes that her achievements will make things easier for younger actresses, especially as they get older. But to me, the kind of success Streep has earned comes only with age.